Take the gravitational pull of the Price Is Right’s Plinko, pipe-wrench it into the hacking puzzles of BioShock, gulp it all down with a blended techno smoothie – complete with a miniature umbrella of game modes and level unlocks – and you have Droplitz, an icy-cold summer hit.
Atlus is better known for championing role playing videogames of the Asian variety; see Knights in the Nightmare, Class of Heroes, or Persona franchise But Droplitz, developed by Blitz Arcade, is allowing Atlus its first step into the so-called casual market:. It’s a well-placed first step, to be sure and it helps broaden the publishers audience.
The premise, as is true for any puzzle arcade game worth its salt, is a simple one: twist dials to make paths in order to preserve Droplitz. Cinch. The ante always gets upped as Droplitz fall with greater and greater speed, and in later levels lengthen and widen the board, and unlockable game modes by introducing board-altering bombs, precisely-timed slowdowns, flash-freezes, and even a spreading “infection.”
Droplitz is less about racing against the clock and more about preserving the precious few Droplitz you are given. Run out of Droplitz and it's game over man. But if you get into the zone of seeing paths where none existed before – methodically drawing pipelines from bottom to top, top to bottom – then you can, theoretically, play Droplitz indefinitely. An Achievement awaits the masterful player that can survive two hours straight. Personally, after ten accumulative hours of gameplay, I’ve rarely made it past the 20 minute mark.
Milestones pass quietly, offstage. You rarely know you’ve unlocked anything until you exit to the main menu and – being pleasantly surprised – find a new theme or mode waiting. The backdrops and accompanying soundtrack coast from “Disco Dials” to “Winter Wonderland” to “Flaming Zebra.” There’s a theme for lovers, a daytrip through an ancient forest, and even a theme to make you all cozy inside. These amount to nothing more than interchangeable wallpapers, but the shifting ideas are a welcome sight for sore eyes.
Droplitz is stingy with rewards at first. During your first forays, surviving even more than a couple minutes is fraught with perilous stressors. The Zen lite messaging rings ironic and mocking. Even with healthy applications of time and patience, the next goal always feels out of reach – until you do reach it. I was beaming when I first reached 20,000 points. Now my high score is 400 points shy of a million … and I’m furious. That’s the emotional give and take that can feel baffling throughout Droplitz.
The sparse, differentiating themes will make waves in your imagination if you let them. In the “Forest Frolic” level, the Droplitz make sense as leafy dew. But “Night Sky” transforms the Droplitz into falling stars. “Cappuccino Joy” begins to fill an espresso cup. “Lesson in Love” can feel like you’re trying to capture precious moments. And if Droplitz teaches you nothing else, it will show you that resources are finite, and that preserving them should be our highest priority.
With its pressed-for-time pacing, it’s more Tetris than Hexic, and it’s impossible to relax or zone out. Plus, by necessity, Droplitz’s pause screen offers little respite and certainly no room for planning. These factors don’t, by any means, make this a poor game. But it’s certainly one that limits its mass appeal, and will be downloaded more by players seeking a challenge rather than a brainy diversion.